How to Choose the Best Website Broker to Sell Your Website

Raise your hand if you own a website.

Now, keep it up if you’ve ever thought about selling it.

Selling a website can be tough. It’s your baby. It represents so much sweat equity. You’ve created it from basically nothing. Why would you ever sell it?

In short, money.

Not all websites are worth money, but if your site makes money consistently every month, you can sell it for a lot more than it makes.

In fact, people do it all the time. Below is one of many examples of sites recently sold by leading website broker, FE International (there are hundreds like this):

It’s a relatively simple site. It makes $4600 a month. And it sold for $218,000.

Not bad right?

But how would you even start to approach selling your website?

You could list it on one of the big marketplaces, but assets can take forever to sell there, and you definitely won’t get a high multiple (a multiplier used to value a website—usually between 20x and 30x the monthly profit).

You could find a private buyer, but that’s an astonishingly huge amount of work. Plus, you’d have to take care of all the negotiations, finances, and legal work yourself (or spend major cash on a lawyer).

For our money, the best and easiest way to sell a site is through a website broker (there’s a much more robust business case for using a broker below).

There are just so many upsides. So, if you’ve got a website you think you might want to sell, this is a guide on how to choose the right brokerage.

What Is a Website Broker?

A lot of people don’t even know website brokers exist, but they do—just like yacht brokers, stock brokers, or real estate brokers.

And the function is pretty much the same: to connect buyers and sellers.

Of course, it can be a little more complicated than that with websites. Firstly, websites are digital assets, and sellers might never even see their buyers, and that can sometimes complicate things when people start kicking the tires.

It also takes a lot more financial and legal acumen to facilitate the sale of a website because, often, it is more a business than it is a tangible thing.

A good website broker will cover all these bases. They’ll understand how to properly “kick the tires” of a website. They’ll have legal and financial teams. And a broker understands that what they’re selling is a business, and they’ll treat it that way.

Should You Use a Website Broker?

If you want to sell your website, there aren’t many reasons not to use a broker. That said, using a broker isn’t the right decision 100% of the time. So before we really dig into how to choose the best website broker for your business, let’s quickly run through the rationale of using one at all.

Question #1: How much is your website worth?

In general, website brokers sell sites in the mid-to-high ranges.

For a website brokerage like FE International, one of the premier website brokers on Planet Earth, that range is in the $20,000 to $20,000,000 range. Here’s a quick sample of some of their recently sold listings.

Now, if you’re thinking “$20,000?! That’s a ton of money! There’s no way my site could be worth $20,000!”

You might be wrong.

A website brokerage like FE International routinely sells businesses for 2.5x – 4.5x the annual profit, and a high-quality site that generates mostly passive income can sell for even higher. At that multiple, your site really only needs to be generating about $670/mo to break that $20,000 bare minimum barrier.

Of course, a lot of you probably have websites that earn much, much more than that, so you may not have that problem.

Question #2: Can you find buyers on your own?

The other main reason to use a website broker is that they typically have access to large pools of qualified buyers.

Let’s say you have a website that earns about $2,000/mo. At a benchmark 2.5x multiple (of annual revenue), you might be able to offload that site for about $60,000. For a super high-quality site, that number might jump to $80,000.

Do you have many friends who are able to spend $80,000… like today?

I know I don’t.

Brokerages do. They are in the business of buying and selling websites. FE International, for example, has over 650 transactions under its belt. You don’t make that many sales without developing a network of people who want to buy websites.

At top brokerages, sometimes websites don’t even make it to the public listings; instead, they’re snatched up by the piranha pool of rabid website buyers before they ever see the light of day.

This is especially true with content sites. Content sites (sites monetized with content and display ads or affiliate revenue) tend to sell quickest because they tend to be by far the most passive kind of website.

That’s what most of us build, right?

The point is: Instead of hunting down buyers on your own, a broker can probably sell your website way faster than you can.

Question #3: Are you equipped to handle contracts and money transfers?

This is a big one for most folks.

As nerve-wracking as it is for you to sell your website, it’s probably worse for the person letting go of that $60,000 (or however much your website goes for).

You’re going to need air-tight legal contracts that make all parties comfortable and keep everyone safe.

You’re also going to need proper valuations, a platform for negotiations, and some sort of escrow system to safely transfer the assets.

I’m sure you could figure out how to do all this, but if you don’t know how and don’t want to figure it out, using a website broker might alleviate a major pain point.

Question #4: Can you handle the technical transfer?

This was a big one for me when I first started buying and selling websites. I remember buying a site on one of the bigger marketplaces instead of going through a broker.

If you didn’t know, when you make a purchase through one of those marketplaces, even after you’ve negotiated a price and settled the money, you’re 100% on your own when it comes to the actual technical transfer of the asset.

The problem was neither of us—myself nor the seller—knew the first thing about how to transfer ownership of a website.

So there I was, out several thousand dollars, sitting on my hands with no money and no website. We eventually figured it out, but it was not a fun couple of days.

Brokers help you get around this issue.

Most website brokerages will have a technical team that can help take care of the transfer, and, as much as they’re able, they’ll transfer the money and the asset at the same time.

This also adds an extra layer of security, since the technical part of the asset transfer is arguably the highest-risk part of the whole deal.

So, Should You Use a Website Broker?

For my money, the answer is almost always yes.

There is one downside: fees.

Top tier brokerages typically charge 10-15% commission for their role in facilitating the sale of a digital business; however, you can almost always make that up in the increased prices brokerages typically command, which = a net higher profit for you.

So, yes, I’d say it’s almost always worth looking at a good broker before you try to sell a website on your own.

The advantages are just too good to ignore:

  • It massively reduces risk for everyone involved
  • Brokers typically have access to way more buyers (and ones with way more money) than you do, making it easier for them to sell a site more quickly
  • Brokers almost always command higher prices
  • And brokers can help with the legal, financial, and technical challenges of a digital asset sale

At the very least, it’s worth looking into.

How to Choose a Website Broker

So you want to use a broker. Good call. How do you find a good one?

There are tons of brokers out there, and many of them do a good job. So let’s take a quick quiz to try to play matchmaker.

Question #1: How much is your website worth?

Probably the first question you need to be able to answer is “How much is my website worth?”

You don’t need to know precisely. But you do need to know roughly before spending a bunch of time talking to buyers and brokers (brokers have their own sophisticated formulas for site valuations).

You need to know this ballpark valuation figure because different brokers will cover different parts of the market. A more hands-on, marketplace-style platform (like Websitebroker.com) might be best for deals under $20,000, while a brokerage like FE International handles more “up-market” deals in the $20,000 – $20,000,000 range.

At a very general level, a website is worth roughly 30x its monthly profit; however, that’s based on lots of factors, and some sites can capture higher multiples if they have features like the following:

  • A long and consistent history (FE International, for example, requires at least one year of “successful financial history”)
  • They are passive (i.e., <20 hours/month of owner involvement)
  • They have a strong history of growth (and growth is trending upward)
  • …and more (discussed below)

As a benchmark, you can use the simple formula: annual profit x 2.5.

If your business is super passive or has any of the other qualities listed above, you might be able to bank on a bit higher price.

But really, you mostly just need to know if your site is over the $20,000 mark. If it is, I’d recommend getting a free site valuation like this one at one of the major website brokerages.

So here’s an answer. If your website is worth $20,000 or less, consider:

And if your website is worth $20,000 or more:

Question #2: How much help do you want?

Do you want to save a bit of money on fees, or would you prefer to have the most professional possible experience?

I think most of us will probably fall in to camp “I want the best service.”

If we’re using a website broker, we’re doing it because we want all the extra assistance. So, when I sell sites, I don’t worry much about fees. Instead, I’m way more concerned with the quality of the help.

So you’re really looking for a website brokerage that:

(1) has the infrastructure in place to actually provide help at all stages of the sale

(2) one that has been around a long time, and

(3) one that has a strong professional reputation

The brokerage who has arguably the best combination of infrastructure, history, and reputation is FE, although iAcquisitions don’t do a bad job either (from what I hear).

I don’t recommend some other firms that I won’t name here. I’ve heard too many horror stories—and ones specifically on the technical and legal side—to feel comfortable recommending some of them.

Question #3: How long are you willing to wait?

If you were going to, say, sell on a big marketplace like Flippa, there’s a good chance you’d be staring at your computer screen watching your auction expire without any bites from serious buyers.

One of the main advantages of using a brokerage is their ability to move products.

So, if I were setting out to choose a website brokerage, I’d strongly prefer those who have big lists of buyers to sell to.

And I don’t just mean big audiences or lots of website traffic. I mean email lists of dedicated buyers who are serious about purchasing websites (or, in some cases, brokerages will also buy businesses directly – somewhat of a conflict of interest).

Compiling a list of qualified buyers isn’t easy. It takes many years to develop, and often you’re just going to have to ask the brokers themselves how many vetted buyers are in their database.

So, if I were you, I’d send a quick email to the brokers you’re considering.

A List of the Best Website Brokers

FE International

FE International was founded by Thomas Smale in 2010 and quickly became one of the premier brokerages for up-market online businesses. Today, I’d say FE is probably the best overall choice for sites valued between $20,000 and $20,000,000.

All told, at the time of writing, FE has brokered over 650 deals (that amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, if you were wondering). At 650 total deals and counting, FE is widely considered the most active broker in the industry.

They also may be the biggest. Currently, they have a team of over 40 people, including finance, technical, and marketing experts. FE has its headquarters in New York but also has offices in Boston, London, Ho Chi Minh City, and Singapore.

If you’re curious about the kind of work FE does, you can check out some of their recent listings here.

Use them if…

  • You want the best possible service. There are lots of good brokers out there, but FE is likely the most professional and has the most robust team. They can find buyers and can afford to be very hands-on at every part of the process. They boast a 94.1% sales success rate, and most deals are completed quickly, especially when compared to marketplace sites.
  • You have a high-value, high-quality site. FE is usually the best suited for sites in the $20,000 – $20,000,000 range. In fact, FE can be pretty picky about the websites they choose to sell. They only offer their buyers the highest quality assets, and you’re not likely to get your site listed if it’s not built well.
  • You want the highest possible asking price for your site. Because FE is a premier brokerage, they generally command the highest prices. This does not mean they have trouble moving sites; on the contrary, they often sell sites before they even reach the public listings. But people buy through FE because they are experts at what they do, and they can be confident the inventory is solid. That generally equates to higher prices.

Don’t use them if…

  • Your site isn’t quite worth $20,000 yet. Even if you’re on your way, FE usually doesn’t handle sales below this threshold. I’m sure they could, but remember: they are a well-staffed, hands-on operation paying a staff of 35+ experts. They have to keep the lights on, and It’s tough to do that on commissions from $5,000 sites.
  • You don’t have a quality site. Everyone has a different definition of “quality,” and I’m sometimes shocked by people who think they have a quality site but don’t. In general, if you have bad or duplicate content, technical glitches, or are in questionable niches (gambling, etc.), FE will probably suggest you sell elsewhere.
  • You’re not comfortable paying high commissions. FE’s commissions are very reasonable for what you get, and they’re in line with other premium brokers, but at 15%, they’re on the high side. Because FE is so good at selling sites (and for higher prices), you’re really spending money to make money. Still, these kinds of commissions might turn off the penny pinchers among us.

Websitebroker.com

Not a lot of people know about Websitebroker.com, which is why I kind of consider it a diamond in the rough—a little gem of a marketplace that accomplishes what Flippa sets out to do, only without the absurd levels of spam and scams.

It’s important to note Websitebroker.com isn’t technically a brokerage; it’s a marketplace (read more about the difference between marketplaces and brokerages here). So, it’s more or less the polar opposite of a firm like FE International.

But it nicely covers the parts of the market below what higher-tier brokers capture, and even though it’s not as well-known, there are plenty of buyers using the platform—certainly enough to get your site sold.

Use them if…

  • You have a website worth $20,000 or less. In fact, it’s the main selling point of this platform: the buyers here are downright hungry for sites in this price range.
  • You’re comfortable handling technical and legal stuff yourself. Again, this isn’t a brokerage, so you’ll be forfeiting a lot of the help you’d get by using one. That said, selling a site in this price range usually has lower stakes than those at higher prices, and not everything needs to be hammered out in a contract like it might with a $500,000 asset transfer.
  • You’re a site flipper. If you’re a site flipper—someone buying sites privately and flipping them on marketplaces for a profit—this is a really, really good marketplace that your competitors may not know about. It can expand your potential reach and help you get that asset off the books.

Don’t use them if…

  • You really want a high multiple. This is the case with any marketplace, really. Sites sold through brokers can sometimes fetch multiples as high as 50x monthly profit (usually highly passive, highly profitable sites). It’s possible to get that in a marketplace if you have a really nice site and you market it well, but in my experience, it’s certainly not the norm. It’s more realistic to plan on multiples in the 20x – 29x monthly profit range.
  • You’re not comfortable with contracts or technical stuff. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise. If you sell a site through a marketplace, you’re going to be on the hook for stuff you wouldn’t be responsible for if you sold through a website broker. For me, the technical side of transferring a site can be a bit of a pain, and if a website is particularly large or complicated, it just isn’t worth it (although for simple sites, it usually isn’t that big a deal).

iAcquistions

iAcquisitions is another broker that serves the upper end of the market. They’re not quite as active or experienced as FE, nor do they have as big and global a team, but they are quite well regarded in the industry.

Their big selling point is mostly that they’re “entrepreneurial,” which, to them, means they have actual experience building and selling their own sites. And honestly, this, to me, is a pretty big benefit. A few brokers have lots of financial acumen, but not many have been down in the trenches, which can sometimes make it easier to understand, value, and sell a business.

Use them if…

  • “Entrepreneurialism” is important to you. This might be a draw for some of you, especially if you’re the type who feels like your business is your “baby”; you might just… feel better selling through a broker who puts stock into building a team of entrepreneurs.
  • You have a higher-value e-commerce site. iAcquisitions certainly isn’t the only broker who can sell an e-commerce business, but this is definitely an area of strength.
  • You have an Amazon FBA business. While this may not include many of us, it might include some. Their experience selling Amazon FBA businesses falls in line with their e-commerce expertise.

Don’t use them if…

  • You don’t meet the minimum requirements for a premium brokerage. Same story here, really: iAcquisitions serves the middle and upper end of the market and is picky about the sites they sell.
  • You’d be more comfortable with stronger financial expertise. Other website brokerages—FE International in particular—appear to have much stronger financial expertise, which would make a lot of people (me included) more comfortable.

Flippa

Ah… good ol’ Flippa. No, they’re not a brokerage. Yes, they have a somewhat troubled reputation. Still, selling sites on Flippa isn’t all bad, all the time. In fact, it can be a damn good place to do it in some cases.

Like Websitebroker.com, Flippa is a marketplace (i.e., not a pure brokerage). But it’s not just any marketplace; it’s the biggest and oldest website marketplace there is. It was started by a guy named Mark Harbottle in 2009 and became one of the few website marketplaces in existence, launching its user base into the stratosphere.

Of course, that kind of growth + the inherent problems of a marketplace = lots of problems.

In Flippa’s case, those problems mostly manifest in the form of scams and spam. It’s not their fault. They do a lot to stop it. But it’s still a problem.

Luckily, though, it’s much less of a problem for sellers than it is for buyers (i.e., it’s a lot easier for a seller to scam a buyer than the other way around). It’s generally pretty safe for sellers as long as you use Flippa’s escrow system.

Here are a few other pros and cons.

Use them if…

  • You want to roll the dice. Flippa is not a place where you get a sophisticated valuation. It’s an auction. You can set a reserve price and a “buy it now” price, but it’s still an auction. But, as is the case with any auction, if you want people to start bidding, you generally need to entice them. However… it’s also very possible for people to get into a bidding war and for the dollar signs to multiply before your eyes. This is certainly more likely if you have a very well-built site in a good vertical on a solid growth curve, but really, it’s at least a slim possibility for any auction.
  • You want access to the biggest possible audience. Flippa undeniably has the biggest audience of any website sales platform. At the time of writing, SimilarWeb estimates they get 1.82 million visitors per month. Premium brokerages like FE tend to have better lists of targeted buyers with real money to spend, but on Flippa, you definitely have access to more eyeballs.
  • You can (or want to) promote your listing yourself. If you have a network of people who might potentially want to buy your site, it’s possible to use Flippa as the sales platform and to use their bids to up the price. If one of them happens to win the auction, you also have an escrow system in place to facilitate the transfer.

Don’t use them if…

  • You want any help at all. Again, this is not a brokerage. No one’s going to hold your hand here. If there is anything—anything at all—that a buyer wants to be included outside of the basic set of website assets (e.g., domain, hosting), you’re going to have to either settle for a non-binding “gentleman’s agreement” or hire a lawyer of your own. Likewise with technical stuff; you’ll have to be able to transfer the website on your own as well.
  • You’re not comfortable with public scrutiny. One of the main advantages buyers have on Flippa is the ability to ask questions to site owners both collectively and publicly in the form of a comments section on the listing. If you’re selling a site on Flippa, you can expect quite a bit of scrutiny from potential buyers. If you don’t want to answer questions about your business on a public forum, this might be a turn-off.
  • You want the best price for your business. While it’s certainly possible to fetch a healthy multiple for your website on Flippa—in a “roll the dice” kind of way mentioned above—it doesn’t appear to be the norm. Based on anecdotal evidence only, most businesses seem to sell for 20x-25x monthly profit multiples on Flippa, and there’s no real way to know what people will be willing to pay. Usually, though, you can expect to fetch less money on Flippa than you could with a brokerage, where they have access to heavy-hitting buyers who likely know them and are comfortable buying from them.

Latonas

Similar to FE International, Latonas is another brokerage that serves the mid to upper end of the market. They’ve been around for about the same amount of time and sell sites in the same general price range, although they have fewer deals under their belt than FE does.

One of the unique things about Latonas is that they are the only “premium” brokerage to facilitate the sale of domain portfolios, an asset class usually found on down-market platforms like Websitebroker.com.

Use them if…

  • You’re a domain flipper. Most of us are probably site builders—people who build sites and try to turn them into revenue-generating businesses. There’s a whole different set of folks who buy, sell, and flip domains. Most domain resellers use platforms like Flippa. Having access to a broker is a luxury for a domain flipper, and it could be a draw if you have a portfolio of high-value domains you want to unload.
  • You have a smaller site. Of all the premium brokerages, Latonas is the one who seems to sell the most sites at the lower end of the price range. Because it’s sometimes difficult to find brokers willing to work with you if your site’s worth less than, say, $20,000, Latonas is possibly the best option if you have a smaller site and still want to work with a brokerage.

Don’t use them if…

  • You want to move your site quickly. This is based purely on hearsay (and also a bit on monitoring listings on most of the website brokerages myself), but businesses seem to sit on Latonas longer than they do on other brokerages. That’s not to say they don’t move anything—just that they don’t have the feeding frenzy-like efficiency of a brokerage like FE International.

What happens after you pick a broker?

What happens after you pick a broker, and decide to list your website, will depend largely on the broker. But in general, here’s more or less what you can expect.

You’ll send financial proof, and due diligence will be conducted.

This is mostly common sense: the first step before anyone invests any real time into your site—whether they’re a buyer or a broker—is for you to prove all the numbers are real.

The most basic way to prove the numbers is a simple profit and loss statement (usually in the form of an excel spreadsheet or a report by whatever accounting software you use.

(Source: Author’s Screenshot/Microsoft Office)

The due diligence process typically involves a more robust verification process of those same numbers and more scrutiny of the business model—you’ll need to prove the traffic is real and the revenue is real.

There are many ways to do this, but most brokerages implement some combination of:

(1) Back-end access to accounts associated with traffic and revenue sources, and/or

(2) Live video walkthroughs.

For larger businesses, you might also expect to hand over bank statements and tax returns.

Due diligence might also include scrutiny of the moving parts of the business. You might answer questions about a drop in revenue or systems you’ve created. Or you might show the prospective buyer your ad campaigns, so they understand the mechanics of what they’re buying.

Overall, due diligence is a flexible term, and it can mean different things for different businesses. Most brokerages have their own due diligence process, but if you want to get an idea of the basics, here is an article from FE International founder Thomas Smale that outlines the process.

The brokerage will list and market the business.

After the due diligence process, the broker will list the business, and, most of the time, especially at premium website brokerages, they’ll market it for you.

Because the top-tier brokerages have networks of buyers who are always looking for sites, the first step is often to reach out to those folks to see if there’s any interest, or, in the case of some firms, a brokerage might actively go hunt buyers down.

Of course, brokerages typically also have websites and audiences where they list sites concurrently.

You’ll negotiate and close the deal.

If a buyer is interested, you’ll begin the negotiation process.

This is typically a back-and-forth process, but most of the time, the brokerage will have attached a valuation number to your business, and the conversation will start there.

A buyer might negotiate the price down, or try to negotiate for something else: for example, some buyers ask for extended training from the seller or for other assets to be included in the sale.

You’ll transfer the asset, and the buyer will transfer money.

The last step is the transfer.

Most brokerages have an escrow system. They’ll have teams to facilitate both the transfer of the technical assets and the remittance of the funds.

After the transfer, you’ll tie up any loose ends you agreed to take care of during negotiation.

How can you increase the value of your website?

We’ve been throwing out numbers from the beginning of this post—to quote myself, “On a very general basis, a website is worth roughly $30x its monthly profit…”

But how do we increase that number? How can we sell our business for the highest possible multiple?

In general, these are the things that increase the multiplier:

Passivity:

The more passive a business is, the more valuable it is. For example, something like a consulting service, where more owner participation is required will generally have a lower multiple than a content-driven website that only requires a handful of hours per month.

In practice: To increase passivity, develop good, automated systems that won’t require a lot of input from a new owner.

Simplicity:

Simple businesses also tend to fetch higher multiples. Something like a SaaS business, for example, might require a developer, customer service department, and ad campaigns. Compare that to an SEO-driven affiliate blog that essentially just has to hit the publish button.

In practice: This may not be something you can necessarily accomplish easily, since the simplicity relies a lot on the business model itself. That said, simplicity also comes from good processes and an efficiently run business, so investing in Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and quality employees/freelancers is also a good idea.

A Strong History:

Businesses with a strong history typically fetch higher multiples. In other words, a business who’s been online and profitable for five years will usually be worth more than the business who had a great first year but has no other history (all else being equal, of course).

In practice: This probably comes down to timing; unless you have people beating down your door to buy your site, it can pay to wait. Not only will you likely sell your website for more, but you’ll also benefit from the revenue it makes in those interim years. If you’re patient and your business is strong, it’s not out of the question to 2x or 3x your money this way.

Growth:

Sites on an upswing generally sell for more than those riding a decline. There are specialized buyers looking to snag businesses in trouble and fix them, but they’re a small group, and in general, buyers prefer businesses showing growth.

In practice: This is probably also about timing—but also a little about effort. If your business is in a slump, it’s probably not a good time to sell it. Instead, fix it. And if you can’t or don’t want to fix it, it’s probably worth forking over some cash to pay someone to fix it for you, since you’re likely to more than make up the cost when you sell.

What do you think?

Do you have a digital business to sell? What questions do you have? Which website broker are you leaning towards? Let us know in the comments! 

The post How to Choose the Best Website Broker to Sell Your Website appeared first on DreamGrow.

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Bad break? KitKat maker accused of copying Atari Breakout game in ad

Games company launches lawsuit accusing Nestl of plain and blatant breach of its copyright in UK advert

Nestl has been accused of copying Ataris classic 1970s video game Breakout for a KitKat marketing campaign.

In a complaint filed on Thursday in a federal court in San Francisco, Atari said Nestl knowingly exploited the Breakout name, look and feel through social media and a video, hoping to leverage the special place it holds among nostalgic baby boomers, Generation X, and even todays millennial and post-millennial gamers.

Atari cited an ad titled KitKat: Breakout, in which adults and children sitting on a sofa used paddles to knock down KitKat bars.

According to Atari, Nestl simply took the classic Breakout screen, replaced its bricks with KitKat bars, and invited customers to break out and buy more candy bars.

The games firm accused Nestl of copyright and trademark infringement and unfair competition.

KitKat Breakout ad

The infringing conduct in this case is so plain and blatant that Nestl cannot claim to be an innocent infringer, Atari said. Nestl knew exactly what it was doing.

It is seeking three times Nestls profit from the alleged infringement, plus triple and punitive damages.

Nestl said: This is a UK TV advert that ran in 2016. The ad no longer runs and we have no current plans to rerun it.

We are aware of the lawsuit in the US and will defend ourselves strongly against these allegations.

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Police try to retrace New York attacker’s moves as Trump sows discord

While the president used the attack to rail against political correctness, New Yorkers took in the news of the tragedy, then went about their daily lives

The terrorist suspect who used a rented truck to kill eight people and injure 12 in the Manhattan attack had been planning the incident for weeks and followed Islamic State guidelines “to a T”, New York police said on Wednesday.

As the twisted and gnarled truck that was used to plough down unsuspecting tourists and cyclists remained parked on the spot where it had come to a halt on Tuesday afternoon, FBI and NYPD officers fanned out across the city and through neighboring New Jersey. They were armed with search warrants relating to Sayfullo Saipov, the 29-year-old Uzbek-born suspect who was shot in the stomach and who is still under guard in stable condition at the city’s Bellevue hospital.

At a press conference on Wednesday, police and city authorities revealed vivid details of items that were found at the scene of the worst terrorist incident that New York has suffered since 9/11. Inside the truck, notes were found handwritten in Arabic proclaiming that “Islamic State would endure for ever”. A number of knives were scattered around the vehicle, as were two dummy guns.

Police said the aim now was to “peel back” Saipov’s communications to reconstruct his every move, day by day. They would be interviewing relatives and friends, collecting footage from security cameras along the route of the attack, scouring Saipov’s family home where he was living with his wife and three children in Paterson, New Jersey, as well as searching the rented Home Depot truck and his own white van left at the rental location.

map

Social media sites linked to the suspect showed signs of Isis material, police said. One officer bluntly stated that the suspect had followed the terrorist group’s instructions “almost to a T”.

Pictures of the suspect captured at the crime scene showed him to be a slight man with a bushy beard, dressed in a blue and red tracksuit. Eye witnesses reported that as he stumbled out of the Home Depot truck, wielding objects that turned out to be a pellet and paintball gun, he exclaimed “Allahu akbar” (God is great).

The scale of the attack became clear on Wednesday, with the crime-scene tape acting as a guide to the journey taken by the assailant. The yellow band stretches cruelly on for about a mile, past 18 complete blocks of New York real estate in the Tribeca district, following the water-fronted West Side bike lane that in normal times is cherished by New Yorkers as a place to run, relax and enjoy the river.

At dawn on Wednesday, the usually hectic West Side Highway was stripped of traffic and strangely silent, save for the relentless thrum of a police helicopter over head. Mangled frames of two bicycles were still visible along the lane, and at Vestry Street FBI agents dressed in white forensic suits were huddled around an undefined artifact.

The attacker turned into the bike lane at about 3.04pm on Tuesday at West Houston Street, opposite Pier 40 where school children were playing soccer on pitches suspended above piles over the Hudson River. Then he picked up speed as he careened his four-wheeled weapon – stamped with the slogan: “Rent me starting at $19” – towards the crowd.

He hurtled past the Tribeca dog run and the kids’ playground at Pier 25, speeding between trees whose leaves have turned an autumnal brown. Along the way south, he struck from behind – the ultimate act of cowardice, the city’s mayor Bill de Blasio called it – mowing down unsuspecting cyclists and pedestrians who were out enjoying the sunny afternoon.

He hit three people early on in his death ride, followed by a six-block gap before he took down a further three, and then another gap before he struck his last two victims.

Finally, the truck rammed into a school bus and swerved to a stop on Chambers Street, just four blocks shy of Ground Zero, under the shadow of 1 World Trade Center and the previous terrorist carnage of 16 years ago.

He was stopped by NYPD officer Ryan Nash, 28, who fired nine rounds and hit him in the stomach. He had rented the vehicle at 2.06pm, crossed the bridge into New York City 37 minutes later and by 3.08pm had killed eight and injured 12 people. Nine remain in the hospital, four of them in critical condition, with injuries ranging from head, chest, back and neck, to one patient who needed a double amputation.

Hours later the truck remained where it came to a halt, surrounded by a heavy police presence, its doors with their Home Depot logo ajar and the front of the vehicle twisted and gnarled in a grotesque reminder of the pain he had inflicted.

After the initial shock of the attack had passed, details of the victims began to emerge. Six died at the scene, two more in the the hospital.

Five of the eight had come from Buenos Aires as part of a 30-year school reunion, their nostalgic celebration of friendship torn asunder by hatred. The Argentine government named them as Hernán Mendoza, Diego Angelini, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernan Ferruchi.

Of the remaining three victims, one was Belgian and two American. The father of one of the Americans, 32-year-old Darren Drake, who grew up in new Milford, New Jersey, said his son was one of the dead, and had been out for a bike ride between meetings when the truck hit him.

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New York City policemen stand guard in Grand Central Terminal on Wednesday in New York City. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

After the Twin Towers attacks on 11 September 2001, the US responded with a display of national unity that resonated around the world. In November 2017, the response was just as instant and striking, but this time where there had been concord there was only division.

George Bush stood amid the rubble after 9/11 and declared through a bullhorn “I can hear you!”. Donald Trump by contrast leapt to his Twitter feed to turn the attack into a partisan tirade against the Democratic party.

The current US president accused the lead Democrat in the Senate of facilitating the entry of the attacker into the country by supporting a 1990s scheme for immigrants known as the “diversity visa lottery”.

“A Chuck Schumer beauty,” Trump snarled.

“I guess it’s not too soon to politicize a tragedy,” a mournful Schumer responded.

Trump returned to the theme later on Wednesday, making a televised statement at the start a cabinet meeting in which he vowed to clamp down on immigration and punish the “animals” committing terrorism. “Diversity lottery,” he said. “Sounds nice. It’s not nice. Not good. We are against it.”

Asked if Saipov should be held as an “enemy combatant” and taken to the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Trump replied: “I would certainly consider that, yes. Send him to Gitmo. I would certainly consider that, yes.”

However, Saipov would be entitled, under the sixth amendment, to the same protections as any American or permanent resident to a trial by an impartial jury of the state and district were the alleged crime was committed.

Despite the barbs emanating from the White House, the striking aspect of the New York attack, and the city’s response to it, was how measured and reflective it was. While the president called for more “extreme vetting” and used the occasion to rail against “political correctness”, New Yorkers took in the news of the tragedy, then went about their daily lives.

That spirit was evident on Tuesday night, just hours after the mayhem, when more than a million New Yorkers threw fear and caution to the winds and turned out for the annual Halloween parade. “I’m not going to let terrorists stop my life,” one reveler, dressed as the fish in Finding Nemo, told the Guardian.

By Wednesday morning, joggers were back out on the streets, improvising their run along parallel routes to the bike lane that remained closed. New Yorkers were back at work, negotiating routes to their offices past police cordons.

Schoolkids, too, were back in their classrooms, even at Stuyvesant High School, which is located just feet away from where the killer’s truck came to a grinding stop. Their homework had been cancelled overnight – no small matter in a school famous for its academic stringency – and crisis counsellors were available throughout the day.

But in all other respects it was business as usual. “We stand strong as New Yorkers,” the school leadership said.

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Trump’s word of honer: in defense of Donald’s sloppy spelling | David Shariatmadari

Im no friend of the Republican frontrunner. But when it comes to orthography, maybe we should cut him a break

Its hard to take Donald Trump seriously. Thats bad, because hes terrifyingly close to winning the Republican nomination, which is a very serious state of affairs. The problem is, things keep getting in the way.

Mainly things on his Twitter feed. The presidential candidate has a reputation for speaking his mind, which, in social media terms, often means tweeting bizarre, unfiltered gubbins. Hes backed the idea that Too much #Monsanto in the #corn creates issues in the minds of Iowans who prefer Ben Carson (or was that an intern who did a retweet?). He may have confused France with Germany. Hes insulted at least 199 people places and things in language that would fail to impress a grade-school teacher. All this despite the fact that his IQ is one of the highest and you all know it!. Baffling.

The latest Trumpism seems to have confirmed in many peoples minds that this man is a clown. He cant even spell! (Im putting to one side the possibility that Trump was in fact using the verb to hone in an unexpected and rather eloquent way).

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 26, 2016

Wow, every poll said I won the debate last night. Great honer!

But heres the thing. English orthography makes no sense. Theres already an unbridegable gulf between its two largest native-speaker populations over the way you spell this word. Brits like me use honour. For Americans, its honor. In this context, honer looks like a reasonable alternative. Maybe New Zealanders could adopt it?

While were on the topic, why do we need an h at all? Its not pronounced in any dialect, as far as Im aware. It would be perfectly reasonable to go one further than Trump and use oner. Speluz ov thuh werld, u hav nuthing tuh looz but yor tshanes.

Speakers of other languages often complain that written English doesnt match what you actually say. My French colleague, Jessica Reed, frequently finds herself outraged by the eccentricities of English. This morning she exploded at me over the word plaid (pronounced plad). It should be played! I am so livid about this! Jessicas strong feelings can be traced to the fact that there are very few surprises in written French the way the orthography corresponds to the sounds that come out of your mouth is regular and predictable (although exceptions do exist, and have to be learned like the hache aspir).

So why is English such a basketcase (another choice insult deployed by Trump in the debate on Thursday night)?

Well, its complicated. But mainly its because weve used writing for a very long time so long that changes in pronunciation have rippled through the spoken language, while spelling has remained rather conservative. Take words that end in ght might, light, fought, taught. At one time, these would have been said with a rough, guttural sound at the end a fricative meaningfully represented by the gh letter combination. This sound gradually lenited to nothing, but the scribes and printers stuck with what they knew.

And then there were various attempts at reform some of which made spelling more complicated. During the Renaissance, scholars sought to emphasize the links between English and the great classical languages, Greek and Latin, by making the spelling of Latin or Greek-derived words more closely reflect their origins. So, f became ph in words like sapphire and while Middle English had endite or indite, by the 17th century indict was being used, by analogy with the Latin indictre.

What about honour/honor/honer, then? British English retains the -our spelling used in Old French, as in other words like arbour, armour and endeavour (though there was lots of variation until dictionaries helped standardize spellings from the 17th century onwards). Americans dropped the u in these words under the influence of lexicographer Noah Webster, who argued that to purify our orthography from corruptions and restore to words their genuine spelling, we ought to reject u from honor, favor, candor, error, and others of this class. His reforms were widely adopted in the US from the beginning of the 19th century.

Since I started writing this piece, Trump has capitulated to the Twitter mob and swapped the e for an o. Honer is no more. But maybe he shouldve stood his ground. Have we just lost a latter-day Webster in the making? True, it was obviously a mistake, not an attempt at reform. But error has always been the wellspring of language change. Trumps alternative spelling was as valid as any of the others. But fine, I wont laber the point.

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‘Word’s saddest polar bear’ may have been granted temporary relief

Pizza the bear is kept in an aquarium so that visitors to a Chinese mall can pose for selfies with the animal.
Image: Animals asia

LONDON It appears that Pizza the polar bear a.k.a. “the world’s saddest polar bear” may have found some relief.

Pizza’s sad plight living in a small aquarium in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has sparked worldwide condemnation, and various animal rights organisations have led the way in campaigning for the bear’s permanent relocation to a more suitable environment.

Now, following a farewell party hosted by Grandview Mall where the bear is infamously kept on display, Pizza has been temporarily relocated from his cramped quarters at the Chinese shopping centre’s ocean theme park.

However, to where and for how long remain to be seen.

In a statement, China policy specialist at Humane Society International Peter Li implored the mall to make the move from its aquarium a permanent one.

Li said, “At last he will feel the sun on his fur, sniff fresh air and see the sky above him,” but further notes, “No amount of renovation could ever make a shopping mall a suitable place for this animal, and to send him back now would be cruel and heartless.”

While Li believes pressure from the international community has contributed to the mall’s decision to temporarily move Pizza, he stresses that the bear’s declining health has likely also been a contributing factor.

Last month, Humane Society International and its Chinese partner group VShine released footage that showed signs of Pizza’s increasing agitation and mental decline, which Li believes may have forced Grandview to act as the bear became too sick for public view.

Grandview has persistently denied that Pizza’s welfare is at stake.

Image: AP / bi zhiyi

A translation of the mall’s statement released on the Chinese social media platform Weibo indicates that the move is indeed a temporary one intended to allow for renovations.

The notice elaborates that in the meantime Pizza “will return to the embrace of his mom and dad,” which many believe refers to Qingdao Underwater World aquarium, a facility in northeast China. However, according to The New York Times, a spokesperson there denied the report, and that Pizza’s parents are kept there.

Weibo user Frederica Law said: “!” (Don’t come back! Go back to nature, the city is not suitable for you!” Another user added, “” (Spare the polar bear, we want to see the mall set a good example.).”

Pizza has displayed signs of extreme distress, including repetitive pacing and head swaying.

Image: animals asia

Mashable will update this article if news about Pizza’s whereabouts becomes known.

BONUS: The UK offers Pizza a home

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